Somewhere along the line I started to like them. I have always kept trying things that I don’t like or am not particularly fond of. Tastes change, as do cooking and preparation methods.
All the beautiful tomatoes at market got me thinking about stewed tomatoes last Wednesday.
But I wasn’t making them that night. This particular Wednesday I cooked some lovely skirt steaks from market and sautéed up some leftover corn off the cob, bell peppers, onion, and carrots. I had some greens too. Dinner was shaping up.
I was out of chili powder so I mixed another batch of my own. I put all the components away and sprinkled both the meat and veg liberally with the seasoning. And I mean liberally. I don’t mess around with flavoring a dish.
Then I tasted things.
There was quite a bit of heat coming off of everything.
I had put away the chili powder and left out the cayenne pepper. I had seasoned, liberally, with cayenne pepper.
My son had been coughing and gagging a bit as I was cooking, the pepper fumes wreaking a little havoc, but he was just being dramatic, right? His eyes weren’t actually burning. Surely not.
I got out the actual chili powder and sprinkled less liberally, but as there was very little cayenne in it adding more didn’t add any heat.
It was still too hot for the troops so they had peanut butter and jelly or lunchmeat sandwiches. I had spicy skirt steak salad for a decade that week.
It was delicious but required a little extra guac or sour cream to get it all down.
So, what is the moral of this story? And what the blue blazes does this have to do with stewed tomatoes?
The moral is to pay attention to what you are doing, especially if the majority of your spice containers are unlabeled. Yes, I functioned for a couple years with un- or poorly labeled herbs and spices. My spice drawer was a dang mess. This was the first time it had caused a problem. I have even had labels for my jars sitting in a drawer for over a year, just waiting to do the job for which they were created.
You can bet you bottom dollar that the day after the Great Cayenne Pepper Incident of 2018 I cleaned that drawer out right quick and in a hurry. Old stuff was pitched. Labels were applied. I hauled my cookies down to Colonel De’s and got empty jars filled. I kinda need more jars now too, but my labeled bags from the Colonel will suffice for now.
That drawer is now a beautiful thing to behold.
Don’t worry, no recipe with cayenne today.
This is my favorite stewed tomato recipe. Just five ingredients.
· 6-10 baseball sized tomatoes or the equivalent. Just about any kind will do except cherry, and that is just because you may want to peel them and peeling enough cherry tomatoes will test one’s sanity.
· Half to a whole bell pepper, any color, chopped roughly, about ½ inch pieces
· 1/2 teaspoon sugar
· 2 teaspoons salt
· 1 Tablespoon dried parsley
What to do:
· Peel the tomatoes:
o Start a pan of water boiling
o Have a bowl of ice water at the ready
o Cut off the blossom end (where it was attached to the plant) each tomato and an “X” on the opposite side
o Carefully place tomatoes in the boiling water for a minute or so. Don’t overcrowd the pot, but you can do more than one at a time.
o They are ready to come out when the skin at the cut lines starts to pull back
o Scoop the tomatoes out and place them in the ice water
o After a minute or so they will be cool enough to handle. The skin will just slide right off.
· Dump the pot of water and squeeze the tomatoes with your hands as you put them back in the pot. Be careful, the juice will squirt.
· Return pot to burner, heat tomatoes to a light boil, a little better than a simmer
· Use a potato masher to further break down the tomatoes
· Toss in the bell pepper
· Add the salt, sugar, and parsley
· Reduce heat and let it simmer away for about 20 minutes or so, until all the peppers are nice and tender
Notes on this recipe:
· Don’t be intimidated by peeling your own tomatoes. It is really quite simple and doesn’t take long once the water boils.
· Not all wonderful recipes have 99 ingredients and exotic technique. This recipe lets the summer sunshine of the tomatoes and peppers really shine through.
· Different varieties of tomato will change the flavor of this dish. A sweeter brown or yellow tomato may mean less sugar added too. Mixing colors is encouraged. I have never tried green tomatoes in this dish. I guess they should work in theory, maybe cooking them a little longer. I will have to try that next time. I just thought of it.
· Adjusting the recipe for size or ratio of ingredients up or down is completely up to you and what you and yours like. There is not science here requiring leavening or rising or anything like that. Too salty, cut that back next time. Trying to cut back on sugar, don’t add it. Not a big fan of parsley, pick anything else that sounds good. Some ideas follow:
o Celery seed
o Simon & Garfunkel blend
o Herb de Provence
o Basil and oregano
o Chili powder (check your label)
· If you really can’t imagine using fresh tomatoes or need a fix in January when only the cardboard kind at the grocery store are available, a 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes should do the trick.
· I love these heated up the next morning with my eggs. They are also delish with melty cheese on top and stopped the show with the smoked grits.